Peale’s dolphins are small to medium sized dolphins that live in the sea around Tierra del Fuego, South America. Adults are black to dark gray, with lighter shading on their flanks. They are coastal dolphins and can often be seen swimming near the coastline in groups and hunting for prey. The oldest Peale’s dolphin recorded in the wild was the age of 13.
Peale’s dolphin occurs only near the southernmost tip of South America and off Santiago, Chile, and northern Argentina. It is commonly seen near the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) and at Burdwood Bank, south of the Falklands. Sightings have been reported in the South Pacific around Palmerston Atoll, but this is outside the usual range and possibly represents a new, undescribed species. These dolphins inhabit open coastal waters above shallow continental shelves, bays, inlets, channels, near islands and in fjord openings. Although found as deep as 300 meters, they prefer shallower coastal waters, particularly associated with beds of kelp.
Peale’s dolphins are gregarious, swimming in groups from 2 to 13 individuals, with most sightings being of groups that have 2 to 4 members. Groups with as many as 100 members have been seen, more often during January and February. The larger groups tend to divide up into sub-groups. The Peale’s dolphin surfaces three to four times every minute and dives for one to 130 seconds, with the average dive being less than 60 seconds. They display many different kinds of behavior. While swimming they can be seen jumping, spinning, humping and tailslapping, the latter being thought to aid foraging by sending fish towards other dolphins.
This species is carnivore (piscivore and molluscivore). The diet of Peale’s dolphin includes: Argentine shrimp, squid, Argentine hake, Kingklip fish, southern cod, hagfish, red octopus Pantagonian grenadier, herring, mackerel, anchovies, capelin, crustaceans and whelks (gastropods).
Not much is known about the Peale’s dolphin’s mating behavior or its biology, as it is seldom found stranded. Births are usually between the southern hemisphere’s spring and autumn but can be as early as October. Usually for species within the same genus (Lagenorynchus) the gestation period is ten to twelve months, with females bearing one calf at a time. The mother nurses her calf for about 18 months, although it may remain dependent for a further 6 months. It is unknown at what age these animals reach reproductive maturity.
Since the 1970s these dolphins have been heavily exploited for crab bait. This practice still takes place in Chile, although less often than previously. They also sometimes drown in gillnets, and a small number are caught in the anti-predator nets near salmon pens in Chile. Further threats include organochlorine pollution, as well as threats to the forests of kelp on which they depend.
According to IUCN, Peale’s dolphin is the most common cetacean throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List.
Not much known about Peale’s dolphin’s effect on the oceanic ecosystem. However, they may affect predator populations, as items of prey.